Lectures

How Massachusetts Women Became Political

The Grimké Sisters' 1837 Antislavery Petition Campaign
How Massachusetts Women Became Political
Historian Louise (Lucy) W. Knight will speak about the women's antislavery petition campaign in Massachusetts during the summer of 1837, and the leaders of that campaign, Sarah and Angelina Grimké. This campaign marked the beginnings of the long and remarkable history of Massachusetts women's organized political activism. 
 
The thousands of signatures women contributed that summer and in later months will be soon be viewable online in the Digital Archive of Massachusetts Anti-Slavery and Anti-Segregation Petitions, that will be launched at Harvard on February 27, 2015. Detailed images and information about the petitions that the Grimké sisters and others campaigned to collect will be made public.
 
House Unpassed Legislation. 1842, docket 1153, petition from Daniel B. Cooper and others. SC1/series 230. Massachusetts Archives. Boston, Massachusetts. Photo by Nicole TopichHouse Unpassed Legislation. 1842, docket 1153, petition from Daniel B. Cooper and others. SC1/series 230. Massachusetts Archives. Boston, Massachusetts. Photo by Nicole TopichThe Grimké sisters were born to a wealthy slave-owning family in Charleston, South Carolina, but chose to move to Philadelphia, convert to Quakerism, and, in the 1830s, become abolitionists and women's rights advocates. They led antislavery petition campaigns, helped organize the first national convention of white and black women, and were the first American women to travel, lecture, and organize for a secular cause.
 
Louise Knight is writing a book, American Sisters: Sarah and Angelina Grimké and the First Fight for Human Rights, which will to be published by a new imprint of Macmillan, Flatiron Books, in 2018. She has previously written two biographies of Jane Addams. In 2005 Knight published Citizen: Jane Addams and the Struggle for Democracy (University of Chicago Press, 2005), about Addams's formative years. The second book, Jane Addams: Spirit in Action (W. W. Norton, 2010), is a biography about Addams’s full life. Throughout Knight's work—which ranges from writing for the New York Times Book Review, the Wall Street Journal, and the Chicago Tribune to speaking at universities, labor groups, and social justice organizations—she explores the connections between early and current progressive civic action. 
 
The lecture is free and open to the public.